By: Meg Crawford
It’s undeniably crisp now and the nights have properly drawn in, bringing us to Yule and Winter Solstice. Celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere between 20 and 23 June, Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year.
While the lead up to Yule and Winter Solstice has been the perfect time to hibernate, reflect and conserve energy, we now honour the opportunities for rejuvenation and warmth that coincide with the turning of winter’s corner: the sun is coming! When you’re in the know, you’ll also note a lot of the Yule-time traditions that have snuck their way into the celebration of Christmas, like gift-giving and hanging mistletoe.
Otherwise known as?
Ideal spells for this time
Try casting for the following:
- if you’ve been feeling lost, a path out of darkness;
- transformation and rebirth; and healing
Things to clear during this period
Because Yule is a time for closure, use it as an opportunity to let go of things that no longer serve you, including resentments and negativity, and cleanse your space.
How can I celebrate Yule and Winter Solstice?
Try some of these ideas:
- decorate your seasonal altar with pinecones, cinnamon sticks, holly, rosemary, mistletoe, wreathes, bells, popcorn and cranberry wreathes, incorporating gold, silver, green or red items and candles;
- dress and burn a Yule log. Ideally, a Yule log is piece saved from wood you’ve burned the year prior, but if this is your first year, find a small log while out wandering – don’t purchase one;
- burn incense that’s reminiscent of the forest, including things like pine, cedar, rosemary, frankincense;
- head for the hills for a good walk and go fossicking for some natural Yule decoration, like pine cones;
- eat an apple for good health;
- enjoy a bath to rinse away worries. Tie Yule herbs in a cheesecloth or muslin bag and let it steep in the tub;
- turn an old-school chocolate ripple cake into an edible Yule log; and
- don’t scoff until you’ve tried it – hug an old tree.
How do we celebrate the festival at Muses?
As always, we’ll discuss the intricacies of the festival, including it’s history and associations, enjoy some group ritual work and meditation, and roll our sleeves up to craft something Yule appropriate for you to keep (don’t fret if you’re not crafty – we’ll guide you.)
Then, we eat! A light refreshment will be served, but we’d love it if you would bring along a snack or something tasty to share (vegan or vegetarian – no meat please). Feel free to whip something up yourself, but that’s by no means compulsory.
Book online here or pop in store to secure your place and find out more. Saturday 22 June; 1-3.00pm; $35
By: Meg Crawford
How do we say it, for a start?
Good question! The standard pronunciation is “sow-in”, enunciating the “ow” as in “cow”, but
dialects differ (for example, in some places it’s pronounced “sow-een”). Don’t worry if you’ve been
mispronouncing it – they even got it wrong on the otherwise excellent Halloween episode of The
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Otherwise known as?
Hallowmas, All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, Samhuin and the Witches’ Magickal New Year.
What is Samhain?
Gaelic for “summer’s end”, Samhain marks the end of summer and the beginning of winter. The
festival is celebrated in the northern hemisphere from October 31 to 1 November, but here in the
southern hemisphere we mark the occasion from 30 April to 1 May.
In the pagan calendar, Samhain holds an important place, marking the beginning of the year and
the consequent cycle of seasons.
Estimated to be the second oldest unbroken European holiday, Samhain has been celebrated for
over 6000 years. Traditionally it was known as the time where the veil between this mortal coil and
the spirit world is at its thinnest. It also coincides with the end of summer and the beginning of
winter. Accordingly, the festival is a time to honour the dead as well as commemorating the
beginning and end of all things. It’s also a good time to focus on transformation, divination and
preparation for winter.
How can I honour Samhain?
Try some of these ideas:
spend some reflective time acknowledging and remembering your ancestors;
decorate your alter with a carved pumpkin, skulls and other items associated with the dead. Other
correspondences for Samhain include apple, ferns, mint and sage, which could also be used to
adorn your seasonal alter;
green witches need to start guarding their gardens against frost;
practice your mediumship skills;
cast a spell to rekindle your connection with your ancestors. This is also a good time to cast a spell
to find a mentor, tapping into the wiser energies at play during this period;
hold a “dumb supper”. Note that this is conducted in absolute silence, so you need to be well
prepared! Set the table with black settings (tablecloth, napkins, cutlery, plates and candles, if
possible) and leave a space at the head of the table, designated as the “spirit chair”. Shroud the
spirit chair in black cloth. If you have space, light a tea-light candle to mark for each person you are
honouring. Ask each guest to bring a note to the deceased they’re commemorating, but keep their
contents private. Cast a circle or smudge the space and have guests turn off their mobile phones.
The host should sit opposite the spirit sitting and serve guests from oldest to youngest. Commence
dining only after all guests are guests can read and then burn their notes using the relevant tea-
light candles. Everyone leaves the room in silence, saying farewell to the spirit chair on the way
out. You may wish for everyone to join hands at the start and end of the meal and offer a silent
prayer to the dead.
try a recipe like Soul Cakes , which were traditionally baked as gifts for the dead;
research your family history;
visit the cemetery and place flowers;
build a shrine to your ancestors;
incorporate divinatory practices into your ritual.
How do we celebrate the festival at Muses?
As always, we’ll discuss the intricacies of the festival, including it’s history and associations, enjoy
some group ritual work and meditation, and roll our sleeves up to craft something Samhain
appropriate for you to keep (don't fret if you’re not crafty – we’ll guide you.)
Then, we eat! A light refreshment will be served, but we’d love it if you would bring along a snack
or something tasty to share (vegan or vegetarian – no meat please). Feel free to whip something
up yourself, but that’s by no means compulsory.
Book online here or pop in store to secure your place and find out more.
Saturday 27 April; 11am- 2pm; $35
By Meg Crawford
Tucked away in a tiny house on an quarter-acre property surrounded by her extensive fur and feather family, Tanya is literally living our dream green-witch life. Ahead of her eminently practical workshops (she can rehabilitate a life-long black thumb), Tanya talks us through the journey to her green witch idyll.
I understand that the die was cast early in terms of some of your practices – can you talk us through the first inklings that you may have been a green witch?
I wouldn’t say that at a young age I went, “oh, I must be a witch”, but I did always heavily identify with the witches in fairy tales as a kid. Like the story of Hansel and Gretel – I just used to think, “oh, those awful children”. Plus, I knew I was very different as a kid – I always had pets and amazing connections with all my animals and they always seemed to do whatever I wanted them to.
I also vividly remember when I was in grade one or two having arguments with both my teachers and parents, saying that I didn’t need to learn maths and all this bullshit at school. I told them I just needed to learn how to grow my own food and be self sufficient. I wanted to know how take care of myself, instead of learning skills that I didn’t want to use and would never use to get a job.
I guess that I was never going to enjoy buying food from other people – it didn’t make sense to me, even as a kid. All I ever wanted to do was learn how to grow food and farm animals.
How did your path continue to unfold as an adult?
I studied permaculture as a single subject at Woodley, majoring in whole-farm planning. That gave me more knowledge about connecting back to the earth and taught me all of the things I wanted to learn when I was a kid.
Since that time, it’s always been in the back of my mind. If I was ever in an op shop and I saw a good book on home gardening or self sufficiency, I’d nab it. I’ve now got a huge collection of books on gardening, herbalism, self sufficiency, tiny homes and how to leave modern culture, go bush and disconnect from society, basically.
The next big leap was when mum and I found my tiny home and we bought it together. That allowed me to put into practice everything I’d learned. From a permaculture perspective, you look at the whole of the land and you work with the soil and the way the sun travels over it and the amount of rainfall you get – you really work with what you’ve got. It doesn’t happen over night though. I’ve got notebook drawings from when I first moved in of how I wanted to lay everything out, and I’ve finally gotten it to that point. It’s taken me nearly 20 years.
What does being a green witch mean to you?
I’m a green witch because I literally live it as my daily life. To me, it means that if I was put in the situation where I needed herbal tea, or to make a tincture for say a mild headache or cough, I have the knowledge at hand and can go into the garden and pluck a bit of this and that and mix things together. It’s both the know-how and the ability to walk out the door and do it. There’s no point having the knowledge without having the access to the garden and there’s no point having the garden if you don’t use it.
To what extent are green witchcraft and sustainability linked for you?
For me, that’s truly the “green” in green witchcraft. I think every witch should have “green” tucked away in her identification, because we are of the earth – we’re not separate from it. We walk on her skin and we need to do that with as little impact as possible.
At the same time, we’re human and we have to function in this massive society we’ve created and in which we’ve made mistakes, but I think as a society where recognising it and we’re trying to change.
To me, there’s no point in saying you’re a green witch when all you’re doing is throwing plastic in the waste so that it goes to landfill and you’re not recycling properly. You need to be as green as you possibly can, although within what’s functional for you. It’s not going to be financially viable for everybody to just go out and spend hundred of dollars buying beeswax wraps, for instance. You’ve got to do what you can do within reason.
Tanya will be a guest teacher at Muses of Mystery and leading the following workshops..
Note: Green Witch Grimoire workshop is currently sold out. Tickets are still available for Green Witch – Get Growing ! for this Saturday. This workshop is highly recommended!
Written By: Meg Crawford
Academic and long-time Muses pal Dr Caroline Tully has delivered a popular array of juicy in-house workshops spanning everything from an introduction to Thelema through to ancient Mediterranean witchcraft, the latter of which stems from her niche area of study.
In February, Dr Tully’s dropping in again to run another compelling workshop, this time exploring the Minoan Snake Goddess. In the lead up to her workshop, Dr Tully gives us an insight into her magical origins and fascination with the Minoans.
When did you first discovered magic and what made it so appealing?
It was in the holidays after year 12. I won’t say what year, because you don’t need to know how old I am, but let’s just say it was in the eighties. I ended up at this person’s house, looking in their bookshelf and saw all these books on magic and just thought, “what is this?”.
What was interesting to me was that magic seemed to promise amazing results. I wanted to follow up and see where it led. I’d never heard about it prior to that, and up to that point I wasn’t particularly interested in spirituality. I’d had a friend year 12 who was really into spiritualism and ouija boards – I didn’t know anything about either, but I did think her interest was ridiculous. I remember once we were doing a ouija board and she got a particular message and freaked out. I just rolled my eyes and was bored, so I thought I wasn’t interested in spiritual matters, but in fact I was.
But the thing is with magic is that it’s not just a spiritual thing. To be honest, it promises empowerment and effectiveness. Those were tempting things, although I didn’t consciously register that at the time. I just registered magic as an interesting system of knowledge that seemed really intriguing and about which I needed to know more.
Who were the ancient Minoans and what do we know about them?
“Minoan” is a term that came from the archeologist Arthur Evans who discovered the Palace of Knossos on what’s now called the Greek island of Crete in about 1899/1900. The name refers to the Greek myths about King Minos, the labyrinth and the Minotaur. While a lot about the Minoans is unknown, we do know that their civilisation became increasingly sophisticated. For instance, starting from around 1800 BCE, the Minoans had already built huge palaces, although there was an earthquake in which they were knocked down. The rebuilding started around 1750 BCE. The first palace period is called the Protopalatial period and the second the Neopalatial period. The snake goddesses date from the first period where they were preserved in deep, rectangular containers found later in the second palace.
What can we look forward to in the workshop?
I’m going to introduce the Snake Goddess, we’ll do some snake exercises, examine the historical evidence and look at the Snake Goddess forgeries, as well as go into evidence for other types of Minoan religion, some of which also involves snake iconography. We’ll also talk about the postures represented in Minoan artwork, and do some exercises with them – the point of the postures was to stimulate certain visions.
Why is it valuable for modern pagans to investigate ancient practices and religions?
It’s a cliche, but we’re really quite divorced from nature. Even saying “nature” sounds like a romantic cliche, but it’s really not. Right now, the ecosystems of the world are threatened, and extinctions are going on and on. The people in charge of the planet scoff at that, not thinking that they’re part of the environment.
The Minoan relationship with the environment was wildly different – the elites in Minoan art are often depicted in intimate religious relationships with aspects of the natural world. The idea is that they’re communicating with it because the natural world was considered to be prestigious. I just think it can never hurt for us to be more in tune with the real world beyond buildings, beyond phones, beyond the Internet, beyond the TV. The thing about the Minoans is that they were a bit more earthly compared to something like Thelema, which is a bit more starry. The Minoans were unashamedly green.
Tickets to this workshop are selling fast with only a few spots left.
Get your ticket online www.musesofmystery.com or in store now.
Minoan Snake Goddess Workshop, Saturday 23 February 2019, 11-1.30pm, $70.-
Exploring the hidden shops, quirky studios and art galleries inside The Nicholas Building. Muses of Mystery.
Go behind the scenes with some of Melbourne’s favourite makers, artists and designers as part of the Festival of Independents this Thursday.
Light Magic for Dark Times
By Lisa Marie Basile
“My goal isn’t to placate you with squeaky-clean false positivity… Instead, I aim to help you find
small, realistic ways to gain strength, autonomy, and joy.”
Basile’s spell book speaks directly to the socially conscious young women living through our
often tumultuous age. She has stepped into the darkness, and emerged with wonderful volume
of spells, rituals, and practices to help shine a light into the shadowy parts of day-to-day life.
Many of these rituals are simple, requiring only a few common components, and your time. This
makes them perfect for the beginner witch, or those who (like me) feel they are constantly
wrestling with a pages long list of ingredients! The book’s total list of required materials is less
than a page – so if you have access to coloured candles, a few carefully selected crystals, and a
handful of fairly common household items, you’re probably already set.
However, for those of us who do like to get fancy, the structure of the spells are solid. There’s
plenty of room to add things – into crystals, essential oils, or herbs? You could easily substitute,
or add your own flourishes.
Much of Basile’s magick is focused on magick as an act of self care. Within you’ll find pages
such as “A Poppet Practice for Body Love”, “A Self Love Spell for Those with Chronic Illness”
(one of my favourites), “A Spell to Recharge After Attending a Protest or Doing Social Justice
Work” and “A Ritual to Get Rid of Imposter Syndrome.” I know I can personally relate to the
feelings and issues touched on by these spells – but they aren’t things I’ve done nearly enough
spell work around.
This book has inspired me to find fresh ways to include small acts of magick in my everyday
life, but is also a book I’d feel comfortable gifting to a newer witch. It’s written in a way that is
accessible and easy to grasp, but isn’t an introduction into witchcraft, or any specific school of
Of course, I can’t review Light Magic for Dark Times without mentioning how stunning this book
is. Inside the hardbound cover, this volume is littered with simple line drawings, and is
beautifully formatted. Each page is truly a joy to look at!
So pour yourself a cup of tea, wrap yourself in a blanket, and get stuck into this gem!
Review written by Emily